The Hopeful Wanderer 7 – The Longest Day

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Photo by Marcos Miranda on Pexels

On this, the longest day of the year, as the sun reached and reached and reached for the horizon, the empty roads and secret paths called me forth to wander. Toward whimsical places, toward unforgettable faces, their whispers urged me. “Follow… follow…”

With yearning tugging at my heart, I left without hesitation. Since that day, my toes have traveled trails trod by many, by few, and by none as I explore the unknown and rediscover the abandoned. To reach and reach and reach my hand for the horizon has become my lot, my curse, my gift. I wander ever onward, ever homeward, ever hopeward.

I feel no pressure to return.


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story. 

The Hopeful Wanderer 6 – A Chance of Light Showers

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While passing a farmhouse late one summer evening, I overheard the weather forecast through an open window, the local meteorologist calling for light showers very soon. Though I saw no clouds in the sky, I took shelter beneath an overhang out in the field behind the house, making myself comfortable as the sun finished passing below the horizon. Hands in pockets, parked on a squashy hay bale, satchel at my feet, I would wait out the coming rain in comfort.

From a nearby barn, some farmhands emerged, the weather report blasting from a radio within. One of them turned it down. The farmhouse back door opened and several of the family members crowded onto the porch. They waved at me and I waved back, puzzled at all their expectant faces turned toward the sky.

Then from nowhere fell drops of light.

They arced in ribbons, showering the field with streaks of gold. Pouring almost faster than the eye could detect, slashing across the inky sky and lighting up the field and surrounding woods as bright as day. As each honey-bright gleam hit the ground, it exploded like tiny fireworks, scattering across the grass in a network of shining webs.

I couldn’t help it; I put out my hand. The sparks glancing off my skin felt like warm afternoon sunlight, nothing more. I let the droplets gather within my cupped palm, collecting there like a pool of golden sunwater, weightless as air. But soon the glowing substance destabilized and broke apart, disappearing into invisibility. The flash left sunspots on my vision.

I supposed it didn’t do to keep the sun. Blinking, I lowered my hand, only a little regretful, and witnessed the bright, brief spectacle until the final drop of light fell to the earth.


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story. 

The Nope Book Tag

Word Nerd Scribbles tends to feature only books that I liked enough to review (unless it’s one that truly pissed me off), so I think it’ll be fun to, for once, look at some books that I really don’t recommend.

 

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Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

I shamelessly stole this post from Literary Weaponry because I was unlikely to ever get tagged and I wanted to play anyway. Word Nerd Scribbles tends to feature only books that I liked enough to review (unless it’s one that truly pissed me off), so I think it’ll be fun to, for once, look at some books that I really don’t recommend. The tag’s originator can be found here.


NOPE. ending:

A book ending that made you go NOPE either in denial, rage or simply because the ending was crappy.

Capture The Death Cure by James Dashner

SPOILERS. Three entire books building up to the worst cop out solution I’ve seen. The stakes are high: sacrifice the main character or the world burns. Wait, the main character doesn’t want to sacrifice himself? Okay, here’s a utopia where he and his friends can have sex and re-start the world (I guess), like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, except Eve (Teresa), the only girl, dies first. They’re fine. Everyone else is screwed.

 

NOPE. protagonist:

A main character you dislike and that drives you crazy.

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The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

I first read this series in high school and it may have been my first true introduction to YA urban fantasy. I loved the world and the side characters, but I cannot stand the main character, Clary Fray. Compared to the rest of the cast, she’s boring and I was more inclined to skip to the chapters featuring Simon than read anything about her.

NOPE. series:

A series that turned out to be a huge pile of nope after you’ve invested all of that time and energy on it.

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Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

I made an actual genuine attempt to read Twilight for the sake of my little sister, who loves the series. We made a deal that for however many of the books I read, she would read one of my suggestions. I only got through the first book through sheer stubborn spite, because I found the pacing slow, the characters flat, and the events uninteresting. I will never finish the series.

NOPE. pairing:

A “ship” you don’t support.

 

I don’t ship 99% of the pairings I read. Next!

NOPE. plot twist:

A twist you didn’t see coming and didn’t like.

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Ruin and Rising 
by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo pulled a seemingly small but gut-wrenching plot twist in the final installment of her Grisha Trilogy. I wasn’t ready. I had to go back and reread that section to make sure I understood it right. Then I had to text my friend to tell her how mad I was about it.

 

NOPE. genre:

A genre you will never read.

Romance. It’s fine, it’s fine that other people like it. No worries. But the romance is never, ever the reason why I come to a story.

NOPE. book format:

A book format you hate and avoid buying until it comes out in a different edition.

can read books in a digital format, but I don’t want to. Also, I’d rather not read/own the movie cover edition.

NOPE. trope:

A trope that makes you go NOPE.

Coming back to romance again: I can’t stand the trope of characters–whether longtime friends, longtime enemies, or just met–falling in love over the course of a handful of days. No one does that. Such a thing is infatuation at absolute best, but probably amounts to much deeper psychological problems.

I also despise when female characters make little to no discernible contribution to the plot and/or when the narrative contains no female characters. Looking right at you, J.R.R. Tolkein. Along the same lines, narratives that contain little to no diversity get an eye roll and a negative review from me.

NOPE. recommendation:

A book recommendation that is constantly pushed at you, that you simply refuse to read.

I’m resistant to most recommendations at first because, naturally, no one really knows my taste in books.

NOPE. cliché:

A cliché or writing pet peeve that always makes you roll your eyes.

When a character sighs. Really, narrator? You want to describe them sighing? You couldn’t come up with something more interesting? When characters are exasperated or disappointed, I will take literally any other possible description.

NOPE. love interest:

A love interest that’s not worthy of being one.
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Wuthering  Heights by Emily Bronte

Romanticized manipulative, abusive, gaslighting, outright jerks. The classic Byronic hero Heathcliff of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights embodies my intense dislike of this love interest trope. NOPE.

NOPE. book:

A book that shouldn’t have existed.

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Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

The only thing this book has going for it is a lovely descriptive and syntactic style. I read the entire thing thinking surely prose this wonderful will amount to something in the end. But no. Nothing happened in this book.
Nothing happened in this book.

 

NOPE. villain:

A villain you would hate to cross.

Six of Crows Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

While Kaz Brekker functions as an anti-hero, not a villain, he’s certainly the stuff of nightmares for society in his world. Out of every true villain I’ve ever read, I’d much rather cross them than Dirtyhands.

NOPE. death:

A character death that still haunts you.

CaptureGregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins

love the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins and Gregor and the Code of Claw, the final installment, has my heart forever. But there’s a character death in this particular book that kills me every time I read it. I haven’t reread it in a long time, because I just can’t face my favorite character dying all over again.

NOPE. author:

An author you had a bad experience reading and have decided to quit.

CaptureThe Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore

I used to be really into this series. The first book, I Am Number Four, was so good. But then the writers of the series–collectively under ‘Pittacus Lore’–started rolling out extras and short-stories and the series dragged out, so I dropped it because between releases, I was losing track of everything happening in that universe.

 

 

 


Well, that was cathartic. 10/10 I recommend you try this nope book tag yourself.

The Hopeful Wanderer 5 – The Wretched Well

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Photo by Úrsula Madariaga from Pexels

When I stopped at a well in the woods, I found within not water but a wretched waif. A pale figure curled up on a bed of grass and crushed flowers, the hands cupped over their head the picture of abject sorrow. Their voice bounced off the stone walls up to me, distorted and muffled. “Do not drink here.”

Warm sunlight beat down on the back of my neck, a contrast to the chilly air rising up from below. “I would not,” I replied, leaning my arms on the well rim, where grit bit at my skin. Surveying the prison below, I searched for a way to free the stranger. No cracks marked the smooth inner walls, no handy rope dangled down. “How do I get you out?”

Grass rustled when the well-dweller turned their head to look up at me. My stomach plunged at the sight; for a moment, the face was mine, or that of someone I had once known. “I would rather stay here,” they mumbled. “I have poisoned the well, but the well contains my poison.”

“You will suffocate, then,” I replied, though I suspected they already understood that.

“Leave me.” The wretch curled up tighter, face hidden from me once more.

I tapped my fingers against the stone, gaze on the mossy middle distance. At a loss, but unwilling to leave. After a minute or three, I dug around in my satchel and withdrew two climbing picks. They thumped against the soft dirt next to the well-dweller’s head and they flinched back in surprise.

“For when you’re ready to get yourself out,” I explained.

Before I moved on, one pale hand reached out and grasped a pick, clenching it in a tight, shaking grip.


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story. 

Book Review: Sabriel

I recommend Sabriel for readers who like somewhat dark things with a bright twist and who like intelligent, capable female characters. 

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Sabriel by New York Times-bestselling author Garth Nix

Synopsis

Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him.

With Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen series, Garth Nix exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rising star, in a novel that takes readers to a world where the line between the living and the dead isn’t always clear—and sometimes disappears altogether.

(Via Goodreads)

About the Author

Garth Nix has been a full-time writer since 2001, but has also worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve.

Garth’s books include the Old Kingdom fantasy series, comprising Sabriel, Lirael; Abhorsen; Clariel and Goldenhand; SF novels Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes; and a Regency romance with magic, Newt’s Emerald. His novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence; The Keys to the Kingdom series and others. He has co-written several books with Sean Williams, including the Troubletwisters series; Spirit Animals Book Three: Blood Ties; Have Sword, Will Travel; and the forthcoming sequel Let Sleeping Dragons Lie. A contributor to many anthologies and magazines, Garth’s selected short fiction has been collected in Across the Wall and To Hold the Bridge.

(Via author’s website)

My Impressions

I had never read Garth Nix before picking up this book, and only heard of him in passing. But on my way back from a trip with a friend, he suggested Sabriel to me based on my explanation of the premise of a story I’ve been writing, saying he thought I’d like it. Since I wasn’t feeling anything in my to-be-read pile, I picked it up at my local library the next chance I got.

While I’m not always keen on the World War I era aesthetic, Nix writes it very well, including battle details and tactics comparable to Brian Jacques (the Redwall series) level quality. While Ancelstierre, on one side of the Wall, boasts technological advancements, the Old Kingdom, on the other side, remains more medieval, drawing in readers who appreciate one or both of ancient and modern time periods. I really appreciated Sabriel as a character herself. She’s brave and honorable, but in a smart, thoughtful, considerate, and strategic manner, the kind of character I don’t get to see in fiction nearly often enough. All the other characters shine alongside her, unique and memorable, influencing and impacting the outcome of the narrative almost as much as Sabriel does.

The underlying aesthetic of the story gets me the most. I’m attracted to fiction about necromancy, but it’s hard to find the particular flavor I’m seeking. Sabriel scratched so very much of that itch for me. I love the idea of an ancient line of necromancers, called Abhorsen, living and working to lay the Dead to rest rather than raise them up, unlike other, more base necromancers of their world. They use very special bells to send the Dead down the river of Death — unruly bells that could also turn on their user — as well as a specific sword created for fighting the Dead. The river itself calls to mind the idea of the River Styx and the ley lines dubbed ‘the Corpse Road’ in some regions of our ancient world. Most shockingly, I for once didn’t despise the romantic subplot, as it unfolded a little more practically and a little less passionately than I tend to see. Nix‘s descriptions, comparisons, and imagery are beautiful and some of the turns of phrase have me jealous for not having thought of them first.

There wasn’t much I disliked about these books. Only the somewhat older-fashioned narrative style could sometimes break the immersion and unexpectedly bring me back out of the story.

I recommend Sabriel for readers who like somewhat dark things with a bright twist and who like intelligent, capable female characters.

My rating: 5/5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.17 stars


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The Hopeful Wanderer 4 – A Silent Eclipse

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Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

When the moon drew too close, we retreated indoors and barred the windows shut. Mystified, I helped with the task of preparing for a siege, but once the work was done, I tried to be on my way. The townsfolk would have none of it.

“It’s just a lunar eclipse,” I argued. I was standing in the night dark dining room, satchel over my shoulder.

Shh!” my host hissed at me. She held a trapdoor open while her children filed into the basement beneath her kitchen, ladder steps creaking under their feet. One of them, a dark, curly-haired child, glanced at me with alarm written across his face before he vanished below. “You’ll bring them on us,” she continued in a harsh whisper.

Outside, a low rasp echoed from the driveway. Every one of us froze, listening. To me it sounded like a plastic bag of wet aquarium marbles rolling across concrete. Rattling. Squishy. Through the dining room window, I spied twin beams of moonlight, roving independently of each other like small, pale spotlights. The creature crossed into the yard and then back to the driveway, around and around the cars parked there. Its slow, insidious motions had a questing, hunting nature.

The moonbeams cut across the window and I dropped to the floor, holding my breath. Glancing to see whether the creature had spotted my host, I found that she had already scuttled downstairs in the wake of her children. She had the door cracked just enough to see me, her eyes wide in the gloom. I crawled to join her on quiet hands and knees.

As I descended into the dusty basement, lowering the trapdoor behind me, I murmured, “Maybe you’ve got a point.” They shuffled to give me space and I let the door fall closed.


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story. 

The Hopeful Wanderer 3 – The Bravest Thing

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One evening, the stars looked down at me and asked, “Wanderer, you have traveled so far. What do you seek?”

I sat below them on an open, grassy hill. Points of light blazed overhead, like colorful jewels set in a black velvet cloth, twinkling expectantly.

“Hope, I think,” I replied.

For a moment, they said nothing. A light breeze shuffled blades of grass around me, bringing the cool scent of night with it.

“You are very brave,” the stars said at last. “We will keep watch for you.”


I’m always tired, so please consider buying me a coffee to keep me awake while I write the next story.